John 11:1-4: 11 Now a man named Lazarus was ill. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is ill.’ 4 When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This illness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the broken-hearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
Ash Wednesday is a solemn reminder that we live for only a very short time. For as Longfellow reminds us, "’Dust thou art, to dust returnest,’ was not spoken of the soul." Our hurried Easters are always piling up behind us. And yet we still have so many sins to conquer. So many failures yet to amend. So many times when the love of our dying Christ fails to lift us to grateful obedience.
Sickness is never pleasant. And sickness in the human heart causes it to grow stony. Both physical and spiritual sicknesses can leave us lonely, in need of someone to bring the healing balm of help and encouragement. Yet sometimes, painful as it is, sickness is what we need most. The facing of our "temporariness" awakes us to our dependence on that life we find only in Jesus.
So Christ came to Lazarus, to heal him from something much greater than sickness: he came to rescue him from death. Jesus knew what Lazarus could not have guessed. That Lazarus was going to die, but only temporarily. Jesus knew that Lazarus would come back from the dead. And the furore that erupted around his resurrection would catapult Jesus to the very centre of an uproar for the last turbulent weeks before Easter.
Ash Wednesday prefaces the Easter season with the suggestion that we are temporary. Easter concludes the season with a reminder that "temporary" is a word missing from God’s vocabulary.
Lord, help me to face every storm – even the blinding cloud of my own sinfulness – with the resolution that you are present in the thunder and the roaring, the tossing and the turning. Come and make my unreliable heart Christlikeness. Take my mortality and dress it in immortality.